Mr. Speaker, I too am very pleased to participate in this debate today on Bill S-25, sponsored by the member for Winnipeg South. Let me also add my comments, after hearing the member for Elk Island give us an historical perspective. It gives everybody the opportunity to maybe appreciate why we are doing this. It is such a unique experience, as we begin a Monday in this House, to see such tremendous co-operation among members. It is amazing what can be accomplished when everybody comes together and rises above political stripes.
I will also point out, as the parliamentary secretary, that the bill is very straightforward. None of the changes proposed in the bill are unusual or revolutionary in any way, as the House heard from other members. Rather the changes are designed to ensure clarity of operation for the Mennonite church.
The bill was requested by the Conference of Mennonites of Canada and was sponsored in the other place by Senator Kroft to start with. Senator Carstairs then sponsored the private bill in the last parliament, but unfortunately it died on the order paper. So here we are today.
I would like to point out that even though the bill is routine and non-controversial, it speaks to the larger issue that builds on the foundations of Canada's economy. That issue is important for the framework of legislation affecting corporations as well.
Whether these corporations are aimed at making a profit in the global economy, or whether they are co-operatives aimed at advancing the interest of their members, or whether they are not for profit corporations, or in this case churches as was mentioned earlier, any corporation must have its rules and regulations built upon a solid base of framework law.
Over the past years the government has worked to modernize its corporate framework legislation as we all know. A sound corporate governance structure is a fundamental requirement for healthy investment, innovation, trade and economic growth. In recent weeks we have debated Bill S-11 which amends the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Canada Cooperatives Act.
These are the framework laws that establish basic rules for corporate governance in these kinds of bodies. For example, they set out the rights and obligations of directors, officers, shareholders and co-operative members. Part of the objectives of Bill S-11 are to eliminate duplication and reduce costs of compliance. Let me emphasize, we want to allow business corporations and co-operatives the flexibility to organize their affairs within a sound legislative structure.
We place a high priority on this kind of co-operative framework legislation because it helps Canada compete in the global economy. We amend these pieces of legislation to position Canadian businesses, investors, shareholders and co-operative members to respond quickly and creatively to rapid developments in the marketplace.
This brings me to the bill before us today, Bill S-25. At first it may seem that there is very little in common between the corporate framework law affecting companies and co-operatives and that which affects the Mennonite church.
After all, the House will see in subclause 3(4) that the first objective of the corporation in question is:
—to promote the spiritual welfare and the unity of spirit of the members of the Corporation and, by mutual assistance, to foster, diffuse, encourage, advance and strengthen the work of the kingdom of God;
We rarely find these objectives as part of the corporate goals of the business covered under Bill S-11.
The next object listed for the corporation is:
—to build Christian communities in the Mennonite tradition;
That tradition has existed in Canada since the 18th century when the first Mennonites came to Canada from the United States following the American revolution. It was clearly pointed out by the member for Elk Island. I appreciate him providing the history, because it gave everyone the opportunity in the House and across our country to understand fully what the bill all about.
Let me point out that another wave of immigrants came from Russia, as I mentioned earlier, in the 19th century following the Russian revolution. More recently Mennonites from many different backgrounds have made Canada their home, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, Taiwanese, French and Spanish, as well as German.
Over the centuries the tradition has produced a unique socio-religious culture based on self-sufficiency within tight communities. It is a culture that emphasizes peace and relief projects.
Since its incorporation in 1947, the needs of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada have changed. Corporate governance laws in Canada have also changed. This is why, even though the aims and objectives of the Mennonite conference are different from the kinds of corporations covered in Bill S-11, there is a unity of purpose in the need to provide framework law that meets today's needs.
Bill S-25 would give the Mennonite church in Canada greater flexibility to carry on its affairs and makes its incorporation status consistent with modern corporate legislation. The bill would remove the factors that limit the corporation from operating internationally. In this way we can see a commonality of spirit between the bill affecting a church and our corporate framework legislation designed to make industrial corporations competitive internationally.
This is a routine piece of legislation. I am sure and know, as we have heard, that my colleagues unanimously support this effort. At the same time, the bill reminds us all of our importance to work together in the House co-operatively.
In closing, I personally want to thank everyone here for this co-operation. I know that as we move forward we will do the right thing.